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Blog Resurgence April 8, 2011

Posted by Maureen in Alaska, Colorado.
1 comment so far

I’m a negligent blog owner. The space has sat dormant for almost two years, and several journeys have not been documented.

I did not document the move to Colorado from the interior of Alaska, driving 3 dogs and a large cat through Canada in 2 SUVs; I did not document the housing hunt in the Rocky Mountains; I did not document the idyllic retreat found on Craigslist where we have now abided for almost 18 months; I did not document vacations to FL, train trips to Chicago, or hikes in the mountains.

However, we’ve got another big move planned, and my blog juices are flowing.

This summer, we are moving – along with the 3 dogs and large cat – back to Alaska, but not back to the Interior.  Oh no.  This time we’re taking it to the top:


Barrow, Alaska

It’s up there, isn’t it?

So Journey Girl is back, mainly because she’s got a big journey on the horizon and most likely will have some things to say.

Shake, rattle, and roll in Utila, Honduras May 29, 2009

Posted by Maureen in Uncategorized.

Shake did the earth the night before last, when a 7.3 earthquake struck about 100 miles from here.

Rattle do my lungs, filled with mucus.  Swine flu?  Shut your mouth.

Roll do I about town on my purple Bacini with squeaky breaks, bought for 1000 lemps, or about $54US.

I’ve been in Utila for 5 days now, and it’s been quite an adventure so far.  Things have not gone as planned, to say the least.

When my flight finally left San Pedro Sula Monday afternoon, I had already become chummy with my seatmate from the Houston – SAP flight.  Chris, from Dallas, was heading to Utila for a week to meet up with some itinerant friends from Australia.  A non-diver, she knew nothing about the island, but had decided to fly out for 6 days of fun in the sun, taking a break from her CPA exam studies.  I told her everything I know about Utila (which is a fair amount considering how much research I’ve done on this trip), and she helped me through customs and immigration – lip reading is difficult when officers wear masks to prevent the transmission of swine flu.  We lunched in the airport and had a jolly time.

Me w/ Chris from Dallas in San Pedro Sula airport.

Me w/ Chris from Dallas in San Pedro Sula airport.

As we approached the green islands in the middle of the sea, I was surprised at how undeveloped it is.  Also how small it is!  Knowing something is 7 miles long and then seeing it are 2 different things!

Very undeveloped!

Very undeveloped!

 Looks good to me!

Looks good to me!

We landed the tiny 15 seater, and Chris ran off with her Aussies.  There was no airport – just a landing strip.  The pilot unloaded our bags and took off again.  Some golf carts and ATVs drove up and took people off.  There were no taxis. The humidity was a shocker.  St. Kitts was hot, but there was always a breeze, so I never had the dripping sweat I was experiencing at that moment.  I hung around in the hot sun (no shade to be found) with a guy named Ryan from the plane, an instructor from the dive shop I was signed up with.  A taxi finally came, took some of the people from the group and said he’d be back.  Ryan and I were left to wait.  Ryan, a 23 yr old from Pittsburgh, a suburban boy punker wannabe with spiky hair, tatts and piercings (I don’t mean that disparagingly as he is an excellent fellow – just that suburbanites are rarely real punks),  told me how great the dive shop was but also warned me about the Utila party scene – “You’re going to party like a 22 year old!”  Yeah, right.  Doubt that.  He was a nice kid, though, and to.d me where to go to find an apartment.

The taxi returned and I made it to the Mango Inn where I was scheduled to stay my first 4 nights.  At first glance, it looked fantastic, but then I was showed to my room, which was about 8X12, with 2 sets of bunks along the one wall.  Yikes.  No A/C, hardly anywhere to leave my bags, and 2 fans aimed on the already claimed bottom bunks.  There were windows on either side, so I picked the top bunk with the best breeze, changed out of my jeans, and head out the door.  First stop was to buy some water.  I found a guy who changes $$ on the street, and I changed over $20.  Ryan was staying at Caribbean Dreams, one of the places I had emailed from home, and he told me to come by, so I did, but he wasn’t around.  I then made my way down to the dive shop I was signed up with to check in, and I was immediately non-plussed and having 2nd thoughts.  It looked like summer camp, and while I might have loved that type of thing when I was 22, I’m no longer 22, and it’s not what I where I wanted to spend my time.  The course director told me I’d be getting started that day, so I had shown up with log books, paperwork, my money to pay, and my dive books, but I was told, “oh, hello.  Come back tomorrow at around 4:30, ok?  We’ll do an orientation and get you started.”  Uh…ok.  They were nice enough -this isn’t a slam – but there was no connection, and I didn’t feel effort on their part to make one.  I then found Andrew’s Store, the apartment finder place that Ryan from the plane told me about, and a guy also named Ryan showed me a binder full of apartments for rent.  I told him what I was looking for, and he made a few calls, told me what was available, and the Caribbean Dreams and Sandstone both looked good.   He had his colleague David scoot me over to Rita’s Boutique to look at some apartments.  Apparently, a reservation had been made forme since I had emailed them eariler.  I hadn’t made one, but that was no problem.  I wasn’t committed.  Erin, a young Utilian gal, showed me the apartment next to punker-diver Ryan’s apartment – it was great: clean, nice bathroom, nice sitting area.  Very central – a 2 minute walk from the dive shop.  Then she drove me out to Sandstone on her golf cart (no one uses cars here).  People use motorbikes, bicycles, golf carts, and ATVs to get around.  I have seen under 10 cars.  The road is too narrow for 2 to pass each other.

Sandstone is a bit further out – 5 minutes by golf cart.  You drive over a bridge and away from the dive shops, and then boom, you turn a corner and see a big coral colored house  on the sea.  That’s it.  The apartment was  a 1BR on the 2nd floor.  $500 + electric.  No TV, but wifi.  All windows looking at the sea.  I loved it.  But it was quite a hike.  I’d need a bike or something.

I thanked Erin and  I went on my way, and I saw punker-diver Ryan with Jun on Ryan’s balcony, another guy from the tiny plane who was looking for a dive shop to do his AOW-DM.  We hung out with Ryan a bit, I got to see his digs, and he gave me some words of advice.  He had lived in both Sandstone and Caribbean Dreams, and he told me the pros and cons of both.  Sandstone is quieter for sure as it’s off the party circuit, but it’s no fun going home in the dark drunk, and there’s no TV.  Hmmm…..  I also told him about my dive shop experience, and he was blunt.  He said it’s the factory of the island.  It’s a solid education and very well respected, but it’s by far the busiest, and if you want your hand held, it’s not the best place for that. If you want to meet tons of new BFFs and party like a 22 year old, then come on down.    Jun said he was going to sign up with UDC – he had visited a few shops already, and he liked UDC the best.   So I said I’d go over with him.  I wanted to have a better impression of the place where I was dropping a hefty chunk of change. Same thing, though.  Jun and I waited and waited.  People came in and out of the office, no one made eye contact, or someone would, smile quickly and disappear.  No hand holding indeed.  No hand shaking, either.  Finally someone helped him, he filled out some paperwork, and we were on our way.

Starving, we decided to try Bundu, a cafe I had noticed that has a book exchange.  It was an all-you-can-eat special of pizza and spaghetti, and it was really bad, except we were starving, so we ate and ate and ate.  Jun is a 23 yr old from S. Korea, studying accounting at SUNY.  Nice guy.  He has 3 months in Utila in which he intends to focus on diving, learning Spanish, and learning to play the guitar he carries on his back.  We talked a lot about our impressions of the dive shop.  Jun had pretty much decided after our conversation that it wasn’t for him. I was uncertain as well. Our waitress who teaches at a compteting dive shop came by and told us to check out the one she was at.  The manager came over and introduced herself.  She knew of an apartment for rent, and told me to come by in the morning.  I am deaf, and I can’t be in an impersonal enviornment.  This place was too big for my needs.  After dinner, we decided to blow off Ryan’s email to meet him for ladies night at Tranquila, and head back to the Mango Inn.  We were both jet-lagged and exhausted.  We were met with the closed sign, though. Reception closed at 8.  It was 10 past.  Jun grabbed his bags and head back into town, and I wearily made my way up to my bunaglow, aka the sweat box, past the bar and by the partiers in the pool that my 2nd floor room overlooked, and .  My roomies weren’t there, so I found the co-ed shower and toilets, washed up, and the climbed into my bunk, trying to summon up a breeze via wishful thinking.  My summoning skills are lax, so I lay there, soaking the sheets, drifting in and out of consciousness, wondering if I were in the UAF sauna when I’d awake.

At 11:30pm, Lizzie and Yvonne walked in, two itinerant travelers.  Lizzie, 23 and from London and taking her gap year had met Yvonne, a 35 yr old  schoolteacher (with the summer free) from Ireland, a few weeks back in Guatemala, and they have been traveling together ever since.  They were heading to Nicaragua next.

We talked for an hour.  They were both taking OW and AOW courses at the shop I was signed with, but I expressed my misgivings.  They thoroughly loved the shop, though, and gave rave reviews, but also encouraged me to look around a bit and get what I want out of my summer.  A breeze came, however, slight, and I slept a little, but never deeply.  I awoke at 6:30am with a wicked headache and a sore throat, gingerly descended from my sweat-soaked bunk, and was on my way.    I had 2 agendas for the day:  to find an apartment ASAP, and to interview some other dive shops before my 4:30 orientation.

I walked all the way down to the end of the road, wishing I weren’t so friggin hot, head-achey, and dehydrated.  I was literally dripping sweat onto the ground.  Like I had been dunked in a pool.  I found a municipal beach that looked delightful, made a mental note to return there some time, and head back.  There were  a few dive shops along the way, but I peaked in a nothing was happening, so I moved on.  I stopped at Bay Island College of Diving and chatted with the manager for 30 minutes or so.   A nice woman, she had just taken over management 6 weeks before, and she seemed a little overwhelmed.  She gave me a full tour of the facilities, which looked great.  The boats were excellent.  However, I was pretty much sold until she told me that all of the instructors were brand new with 100+ dives.  I have 100+ dives.  That was a no-go for me.  I thanked her, and moved on, finding Maggie’s place across the way, the apartment complex the Bundu manager told me about.  I was happy to find her there, and she got the Utilian manager, Argentina, to show me the 3 available apartments.  $450 a month for a 1 br with all the amenities, and the security would be tight.  Looked good to me.  I wasn’t nuts about the layout, and the lack of breeze is a big deal to me, but it was better than the Mango Inn, and if I ddin’t find anything else, I promised myself I’d take it. Patricia, the Bundu manager, warned me about Sandstone, saying it’s too dangerous to live that far off the beaten path for a single female.  It was the first time someone warned me about that place.  John, her neighbor, lived in the apartment I was looking at at Sandstone, and he disagreed.  He liked this place better b/c it’s more central, but he thought Sandstone was great, too. I stopped for another bottle of water; I realized I was suffering from severe dehydration.  I was no longer used to this type of humidity, and my head was pounding.  I was feeling nauseated.

Then I stopped by Deep Blue Divers, another shop on the strip that I had read about online.  It was small and chill.  Two DMs, Andy and Ryan (yes, a 3rd Ryan!) were camped out on the sofas, but sat up and smiled when I came in. They were both recent grads who were now working at the shop. I talked to them about my experience at the big place, and they smiled knowingly.   They didn’t say anything disparaging, but they said that their education at DB was top notch, the instructors were great, and I’d have a ton of fun.  I told them I didn’t want to be taught by a bunch of 20 yr olds, though, like down at BICD.  They laughed.  I said I wanted to learn from some grisly old divers.  They assured me that Chris and Adam were plenty old and very experienced, and that I’d like them, but maybe don’t tell them that they called them old.  Not to their face, at least.  There was a lot of laughing and joking, and I felt at home.  Way more comfortable than I had been made to feel at the big shop.  One mentioned that Adam is a total fish geek – that made my heart pound!  They said to come back at 2 and I’d be able to meet the instructors and see for myself.  I thanked them and moved on.

Hungry, I stopped at a place called Munchies and ordered the breakfast egg-potato taco and some OJ.  Filling and good and cheap. 40LPS – about $2 – for the tacos.

Yum with hot sauce.

Yum with hot sauce.

I felt  a little better – no more nausea – so I  swung by the apartment finder folks again, Andrew’s Store, and told Ryan about my search. He had David take me up to another place – Patrick’s place.  Not too far away, a small studio style apartment for $450 with everything included.  Clean, nice, and Patrick, a big Utilian standing 6’4″, lives on the premises.  No one messes with Patrick, David assured me, and there was a Rottweiler living in the area that kept the bad guys out, too.  $450, everything included.  Patrick did say, though, that the trees that shaded the apartment were going to be cut down soon, though.  Uhhhhhhhhh…. as being cool was my main motivation for finding an apartment, that cinched that for me.

Next, David took me to a place where I could buy a bike. There was a purple Bacini for sale for 1000 Lps, so I paid upfront, and was told to come back in a few hours. I decided to check out Sandstone again on foot to see how long of a walk it was – going by golf cart could be deceptive, after all.  So I bought a bottle of cold water and was on my way.  It took about 15 minutes.  Sure, that’s a hike by Utilian standards, but for a girl who has spent most of her adulthood in Alaska, it’s nothing.  I’ve got winter weight to shed, anyway.  Plus, I had just bought a bike.  My big concern was safety as well as the construction.  They are building a gazebo bar or something, and they work 7am – 4pm.  I want a breeze AND  peace and quiet.  When I got there, there were about 8 or 9 guys hammering a way and mixing cement, but no heavy machinery.  This is Honduras after all.  Things are done the old fashioned way here. They had just painted the door, and a guy named Manuel that spoke excellent English said I could look inside again.  I really liked it.  I was pretty decided.  I stopped by Rita’s Boutique on my way back into town, and sealed the deal.  She rode me back on the golf cart, took note of the electricy meter, and gave me my key, then once back at the boutique, I paid $500 in travelers checks plus a small security deposit.  Done.

Mi casa!

Mi casa!

View from my apartment

View from my apartment

Then I stopped by my bike place and was told 15 minutes, so I walked up to the Mango Inn and took a quick swim to cool down. I packed up my stuff – I was going to move after the orientation, I decided.  I had a nice swim – their pool is actually terrific.  After relaxing for a bit, I head back down to town, picked up my bike, and head over to check out more dive shops.  I went back to DB and Chris and Adam weren’t back from their dives yet, so I was invited to wait, asked if I wanted anything to drink, and just made very comfortable by the DM.  A different guy was sitting at the desk – Ethan – and I chatted with him.  They talked a bit about Utila, and I got to see how they handled a couple of walk-ins who were looking for maybe learning how to dive.  Or how to snorkel.  Or how to do something in the water.  There was no pressure for the highest cost course; instead, Ethan explained what all the courses were and let the toursits decide what they wanted.  It was so chill.  I loved it.  I had a decision to make for sure!  Finally, Adam and Chris came back, sat down, and had a good chat with me.  They were funny and great.  Like a comedic tag team.  They were obviously great friends.  I asked loads of questions.  They answered everything thoroughly.  Chris talked about what a fish geek Adam is – sounded fantastic to me. They told me to go to my orientation at the shop I had already signed with, and also to visit 3 other shops that they named.  Then they invited me to dive with them tomorrow morning for free – just to see how they roll.  These guys know how to do business.  All smiles, I thanked them and went on my way.  I did as they said – I went to the other dive shops and asked all the same questions.  One I really liked, but it was SSI, not PADI, and I didn’t want to switch organizations at this point – plus I already had all my materials.  Feeling nauseated and head-achey again, I figured I needed to replenish the salt I’d been sweating out, so I asked a DM at another shop where I could get some cheap vegetarian lunch.  He opened the door and pointed down the street at Seven Seas.  He said to order the super baleada vegetarianos and that I would not be disappointed.  Indeed, I was not!  The baleada is Honduras’s answer to the burrito.  Homemade tortillas, tomatos, peppers, and onions on a bed of refried beans and lettuce.  YUMMERS.  I’m  convert.

Baleada at Seven Seas

Baleada at Seven Seas

Having eaten, I asked the time, found it was 4pm, so I head down to the big shop for my 4:30pm orientation.  I’ve read the DM manual cover to cover, and promptness is a huge deal that gets a lot of time in the “how to act like a professional” section, so I wanted to make a good impression.  This was an orientation, so I was prepared to be open.  Quite frankly, it would be easier if I loved it than switching at this point and losing my deposit.

A person I had never seen before asked me if I needed anything, and I said I was waiting for Johan (not his real name), that I knew I was early.  There was no seating space inside the A/C part, so I leaned against a wall waiting, tying knots.  Johan showed up at half past four, and explained I needed to give him 5 minutes.  No problem.  He came back a little later and said I needed to wait until 5pm b/c the other DMT in my group, Al, was on a dive boat and they had seen whale sharks, so who knew when they’d be back.  Did I want a beer while I waited?  No, I’m extremely dehydrated and not feeling so well. Beer is mostly water anyway, was the response.  I didn’t like that.  If that’s how he handles a person with dehydration, what will happen in the water.  Be open, be open, I reminded myself.  I drank my water and waited.  The boat came back at 5, but I waited until about 5:30 for Al to get his gear dealt with and all that.

We went out on the porch and sat down, and then Johan needed another 5 minutes to do something, and then he returned and began.  He gave us a booklet that their shop puts together to make the process easier.   Since I have so many dives, perhaps I’d like to do a quicker 1 week DM and then do my IDC this month, and then the MSDT afterward?  Then I could start tech courses!  He showed me the page with the price for tech courses.  After all, scuba becomes less challenging, and once you go to tech, you don’t go back.  Blecho.  I was way turned off.  My head was pounding, the nausea had returned, and I did not like this vibe at all.  Also, I couldn’t hear.  We were on the porch, motorbikes and ATVs were whipping by, students and divers were up and down the stairs and in and out of the office doors laughing and chatting and having a great time.  I couldn’t hear.  My hearing loss is pretty bad; I had emailed the CD about that, and while a hearing person would not have found the ambient noise distracting, I couldn’t focus on what sounds I was supposed to hear. It was way too much stimulus. This made my headache worse, and my mood.  Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when Johan asked what we should do if we have any questions?  Ask you? NO!  Ask our mentor? WRONG!  Al and I shrugged in confusion.  Ask another DM trainee that’s ahead of us. Be resourceful! Now to clarify, this shop, a factory, gets new students with 0 dives and takes them up to MSDT on a regular basis.  So another DMT who is ahead of me might have 30 dives.  Or less.  Al had only 14 dives.  I’m supposed to pay $2800 for that?  My head pounded harder and harder.  Johan showed us around the place, pointed out the different gear lockers, had Al show me the boats, etc.  It was dark now.  I was stressed.  I was feeling really sick and wanted to get moved into Sandstone.  We finished the orientation, but Johan said I had to stay for a meeting.  I said I was sick and stressed, and he said I could go, he’d see me at 7am for my first dive.  I went upstairs and talked with another instructor, a nice Spaniard, also deaf in one ear.  I sort of had a melt down with him – he was fantastic.  I confessed I wasn’t sure if this was the right fit for me.  I was way over-simulated and not having fun.  He told me it would get better, that today was hectic – it’s always hectic when you’re popular – and why it was such a great shop and how much he loved it – family was the word he used – but that ultimately I need to do what I need to do. Johan come in at that point and Fernando told him that I was having 2nd thoughts.  I explained to Johan, and he was understanding, but asked me to give them a 2nd chance, that I could go at my own pace, and to just chill for a few days.  He said come dive tomorrow with them, and I said I was invited to dive with the other shop in the a.m. and if I felt like diving – I was obviously coming down with something – I was going to do that.   He understood, and told me to come on the afternoon boat or at least stop in.  He also said that I wouldn’t get the same quality of instruction anywhere else, but that I could do whatever I wanted to do, of course.  He got an instructor to take the golf cart and move me.  She did, but my dive gear bag fell off the golf cart 4 times on the way to Sandstone.  She plugged the shop the whole way, echoing Johan that the quality of instruction was the best.  I hate when businesses do that.  I remember how DB sent me around to different places to decide for myself.

Once my stuff was in Sandstone, she took me back to the shop to get my bike, but I had left the key.  I about cried.  We put it in the back so it wouldn’t get stolen, I stopped by a small market and bought some carrots, a tomato, a can of soup, an avocado, a bag of rice, and a gallon of water.  Oh, and Skittles and Pringles- don’t ask why, I never eat that crap but it sounded appealing, and when I’m sick, I listen to my body.  I collapsed onto the bed, called Raf via Skype, and had a huge sob fest.  I was so dehydrated and sick at this point.  She calmed me down, gave me a pep talk, and I went to bed.  I slept like the dead til 7 and emailed DB right away that I was feeling really sick – sore throat, flu symptoms – and that I wasn’t going to dive, but that I’d stop by later.  I took the morning to regroup.  I unpacked.  I looked for a carrot peeler in the silverware drawer and instead met my roommate, Mr. Cockroach.  I slammed the door shut.

I walked into town around 9:30 – drip drip drip went my beads of sweat – and picked up my bike at the shop.  Still different people at the desk, no one looks up or says hi – it’s very impersonal – got my back and left, all without any human interaction whatsoever, despite that it was full of people.  I stopped by the boutique to tell them about my roommate, my broken A/C, and to pay for electricity units. I rode straight to DB, Adam and Chris were in the office, no one else, and I just said “I want to go with you guys.”  I apologized for not showing up to dive – did they get my email?  I was sick.  Adam said I was smart to stay out of the water. I told them about the night before, they were miffed that Johan had said that his shop’s instruction quality was better, but that’s between them.  I wanted them to know that I appreciated that they sent me around to different places, that I didn’t need to dive with them to make my decision.  They said to come back at 2pm for an orientation.  Groovy.

I hoped on my Bacini and head for that sweet beach at the end of the road.  I parked my bike under a shady palm and jumped in the water.  For the first time since I arrived I felt like I would be ok.  I still felt sick, but I felt the stress flowing out of me.  I dried off – that happens quickly here – wondered if the tall blond girl on the beach was Chris from the plane with her Aussie friends – decided I didn’t feell quite well enough to investigate, and hopped back on my bike.  I found a restaurant called La Champa that had Thai-Vietnamese food, so I stopped for lunch.  Yum.  Delish.  Met a girl named Alice from the UK who manages the place.  She might need help; I said I’m interested in finding work.

After lunch I rode my bike a bit further, cursing myself for not charging my camera battery the night before, then turned back.  I then rode all the way home and changed, and then head for the orientation at DB.  Chris did it – he would be my instructor, but Adam and Zab, a 3rd instrutor I hadn’t yet met, would be available to me, too. As would the DMs all be willing to help out.  He showed me around, told me what to study and how to study, and asked me some excellent questions about my hearing – how we will deal with this, etc.  Good stuff.  He signed me up to dive in the a.m. and off I went, happy as a clam.  Such a different experience.

I went and paid my reef fees, stopped by Andrew’s Store and asked Ryan about getting a cell phone – looked around with him for one but no luck – then head to Seven Seas – picked up a baleada to go, stopped by Bush’s grocery to get some more water and Skittles (what is happening to me??), then by the big shop to tell Johan I’m going with DB.  He asked that I give them a few more days, and I explained that it was just a better fit, and nothing personal.  I don’t think he believed me, but it’s true.  It was just too busy and hectic for me there.  I couldn’t hack it.  Things are different when you don’t hear.  DB is smaller; I’ll be able to focus on stuff better.

So feeling less stressed, I went home a collapsed into bed.  Of course, the 7.3 earthquake struck in the middle of the night.  I ran outside wearing only a pareo and gripping my thermometer, which was on my nightstand.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Everyone stood outside, kind of shaky and scared.  Then we got word that there was a tsunami watch so Rita packed everyone up in the golf cart and we rode up the hill for safety.  It was quite crazy.  My landlords were shouting to people on the streets that they knew to go up the hill b/c of a tsunami.  Everyone was in the streets.  Lots of the backpacker set looked wasted.  Up on the hill we met 150 people or so, all milling about.  I was feeling exhausted and stretched out in the back of the golf cart. We were there about 2 hours.  No way was I going to dive at 8am!  My throat hurt, my head hurt, I was coughing.  Not good. Finally it was decided that the coast was clear, and we all piled into the cart again and head down the hill.  Everyone was still in the street, and the sun was coming up.  Ryan was on his balcony at Caribbean Dreams, Rita’s other rental property, waving hello, drink in hand, shouting, “Tsunami Watch Party!”

We got back to Sandstone, I called R and told her I was ok.  She was up all night worrying, poor thing.  I hitchhiked to town at 6:30 with my dive gear – my taxi didn’t show – and everyone in the shops was in great spirits with their earthquake adventure stories.  The shop classroom was a mess, and Chris had everyone in stitches pretending to be mad that they left it so messy the day before.  “How many times do I have to tell you to not knock over the bookshelves!”  We were dying.  I said I was tired and sick and not diving.  They agreed I looked bad.  I was told to come back at 2:30pm and take the first 3 exams, so home again I went, studied, and then came back.  I was feeling even worse.  I took one – open book – and got 2 wrong.  Unacceptable for me. Chris sent me home to study for physics, and said I’d take all 3 tomorrow.  I stopped at a little Mexican joint for a meal since I hadn’t eaten anything – La Picante.  Awesome veggie fajita!

Veggie Fajita an La Picante

Veggie Fajita an La Picante

I studied till 11 pm but woke up today and still felt like crapola, so I rode in at 8:30 and said I wanted to raincheck.  My name is on the board to dive tomorrow, but we’ll see what’s going on with my ears and sinuses.  I really want to feel better.  Physics is hard for me to understand when I’m feeling top notch.  I need to be at my best to do well.

That was my first 5 days in Utila.  This took forever to write.  I’ll try to update more frequently with pics.  Hopefully the next 7 weeks are much more mellow.

2 more days May 16, 2009

Posted by Maureen in Alaska, Travel, Utila.
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Life can change in the blink of an eye. On Wednesday morning, my partner’s grant-funded position at the university here was eliminated. This came as a huge shock; we had no hint of this happening.

Because she’s a foreigner, my partner would need to leave the country within 30 days. I was supposed to be gone for 2 months. We have 4 animals, and suddenly no new income – you do the math. A house sitter seems like an extravagant luxury suddenly, doesn’t it?

So of course I decided to cancel my trip. I emailed the course director at the dive place, I was busy looking into seeing if I could get any refunds from all those non-refundable tickets (4 flights and 3 airlines to get from here to there). I was digging through my purse and shopping bags looking for receipts for the gear I had bought.

Then the freaked-out mania we had wore off a little by the next morning, and we were calmer. We took the laptop to an internet cafe, and made a spreadsheet of every dime in every bank account and figured out what everything would cost and how long our money would last. We decided that if I do not buy tons of souvenirs and don’t live extravagantly, it makes more sense to continue with my plans for the diving trip as I’d not be able to recoup much of the money already invested. Eating is cheaper there than here anyway. So I’m going.

And then we’re moving to Colorado when I get back. It’s a cheaper place to live, my work is all online, and the winters are mild and lovely versus severe and hardy.

I go to Colorado on Monday for a week for my sister’s wedding, and then I leave for Honduras next Sunday.

The destinations are the same, but the journey has definitely changed.

So 2 more days til I leave.

The Final Countdown May 12, 2009

Posted by Maureen in Alaska, Travel.
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I leave for my big trip in one week. The countdown has begun!

Denali is the one you can't see, hiding in the clouds.

Denali is the one you can't see, hiding in the clouds.

This weekend, we drove down to Anchorage so I could pick up my bridesmaid’s dress for my sister’s wedding in Colorado in 2 weeks, and to hit REI and get everything I need for Utila. There’s no REI in Fairbanks for some stupid reason, even though the people in Fairbanks need an REI much more than the city-slickers in Los Anchorage!

So I got geared up. I’m set. I’ve got DEET polymers galore, I’ve got promethrium to treat my clothes, I’ve got a First Aid kit, I’ve got a super cute new purse for traveling (ok, didn’t really need that I suppose), and a bunch of other stuff that I needed.

Last week I had my travel consult, and the doc pumped my arms full of vaccines – tetanus, Hep A, and Hep B. I’m also taking an oral typhoid vacc, I start my anti-malarial next week, and I’ve got a bottle of Cipro for just in case.

And I’m studying my butt off so that I’ll be prepared for the exams. I feel so far behind. Hopefully I can get everything read in time.

I still want to buy a nice travel journal (the hand writing kind), and I need a few other supplies still. Tomorrow I’m going to head to the Second Story Cafe in town and sit down with a cup of peppermint tea and make myself a good schedule for the rest of the week.

Thank goodness school is out for the summer and that my grades are in!

Decisions Made. April 20, 2009

Posted by Maureen in Travel.
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JayGee here. I’m a writer and a writing teacher, and I’m heading to Utila in 36 days to do a divemaster internship with Utila Dive Center, and then to do my IDC from July 8-22.

It was going to be Utila.  Then it was going to be Kho Tao.  Then it was going to be Sipadan.  Then it was definitely going to be Bali.  But now it’s Utila, and the countdown has begun.

This is my next step. Right now, I’m a PADI rescue diver with a little over 100 dives, and almost all have been in the Caribbean, except for a few in south-central Alaska this March.

I’m going to use this blog to record my experiences and adventures and pictures and vids.

I’m currently living in Fairbanks, Alaska, and while I’m no stranger to island living, having spent 2006-8 living on beautiful St. Kitts, I couldn’t be more excited to get back down to the tropics for sea, surf and sunshine.

Why am I doing this advanced diving education?

Don’t know. I haven’t quite worked that part out yet. I only can say that I have a picture in my head of my perfect life, and these are just two of baby steps I’m taking in that general direction. Mountains get climbed by putting one foot in front of the other. As far as I know, there’s no other way to reach the top.

And it look like fun, too. (more…)